Home Commercial Alliance Realty Moves Ahead with Pill Hill Apartment Proposal Despite Parking Issues

Alliance Realty Moves Ahead with Pill Hill Apartment Proposal Despite Parking Issues

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By Jonah Loeb

Alliance Realty Partners of Seattle has unveiled plans to develop The Broadstone First Hill, an 8 story, mixed-use residential and commercial complex containing 337 residential units and 5,074 square feet of Restaurant and retail space. The project will be located at 1001 James St, in Seattle near Harborview Hospital, and it will encompass the block abutted by Boren Street to the west, Jefferson to the South and Terry Avenue, on the east side of the block. The proposed 312,000-square-foot Broadstone First Hill project is a collaboration between Alliance Residential, Encore Architects and Berger Partnership.

The proposed development block is currently host to a commercial parking lot and the San Juan apartment building, a 42 unit low-rise that has seen little improvement since it was first constructed in1959. The San Juan apartments were purchased in 2010 for $5,360,000 after being salvaged from the slew of properties embroiled in the infamous 2008 Michael Mastro bankruptcy scandal. The parking lot has remained in commercial operation since it was purchased in 2013 for $42,600,000 according to public records.

The Broadstone First Hill boasts that it will incorporate the proposed design elements for public use, as outlined in the city’s 2015 Public Realm Action Plan (“PRAP”), and many of the design characteristics attempt to borrow from the surrounding architectural styles and building materials.

The development is however not planned to do anything to alleviate the neighborhood’s notorious parking woes. Of the Broadstone’s 337 new residential units scheduled to be built, only 280 parking stalls are planned for its underground garage. This would leave approximately 68 future residents without any available parking (11 stalls are reserved for commercial units). Additionally the location of this new construction will mean demolishing the existing 120-stall commercial parking lot currently serving area commuters.

In total, the neighborhood is expected to absorb a potential 188 additional vehicles with this development, not to mention the additional traffic that will be created by the employees and patrons of the 5,000 square feet of Broadstone’s planned retail and restaurant space.

This estimated parking shortfall comes despite Alliance and Encore’s efforts to exceed industry standards. The First Hill development actually exceeds the city’s average new construction ratio of 0.55 spaces per dwelling, boasting 0.8 spaces per dwelling, after the required allotment of one stall for every 500 square feet of retail space. The current philosophy embraced by Seattle City officials is that by eliminating minimum parking requirements, developers will be encouraged to provide their own minimum standards for parking by weighing costs against practicality.

The theory holds that building costs range from $20,000 to $50,000 per parking space, and if overall costs can be reduced, the return on investment (ROI) demands would be reduced, and rents could be reduced accordingly. The other component to the theory is that the strategic unavailability of parking will result in increased use of public transportation, shared transportation, and pedestrian traffic.

The First Hill neighborhood however poses a unique challenge to the application of this transportation experiment. The Broadstone site is located just one block away from Harborview Medical Center, the go-to emergency care center for the Pacific Northwest, serving trauma patients from as far away as Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho.

Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood is also known as “Pill Hill” due to the dense concentration of major hospitals in one area, including Harborview, Virginia Mason, Swedish Medical Center, Puget Sound Blood Center and Cabrini Hospital. Currently residential rents in First Hill average $2.71 per square foot, according to rental tracking sites Rent-o-meter and Zillow. This rate is expected to increase by about 6% when the project will be completed in 2017. The Seattle Department of Transportation’s 2015 Annual report identified the First Hill neighborhood as the most expensive parking in the city at $4.00 per hour from 8am to 8pm and a record 96% evening occupancy rate in 2015.

These are all factors that Alliance Residential, a nationally-ranked property manager with fifteen multifamily properties in the Seattle area, will have to consider in the coming months as they develop Broadstone First Hill. There is not much incentive to providing more parking, the costs are significant. In order to increase the available parking to a one-to-one ratio, it would add an estimated $3,000,000 in costs to the project, according to the developer.